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keeping a food diary

Keep a food diary

- make sure you include everything you eat and drink

How does keeping a food diary help you lose weight?

Keeping a food diary can give you the best overall view of your current eating habits, enabling you to identify the areas you need to work on. It will also highlight your danger times of the day - when you reach for that sugary hit or salty snack - and allow you to plan healthy alternatives.

Step one is to start keeping the diary before you begin your diet. It's important that you write down everything that you eat and drink for at least a week before you start your diet.

As your calorie intake can vary considerably between days, it's important that you maintain your diary long enough to allow for variations - drinks on a Friday, someone bringing in cakes, a party or celebration, etc.

This will reveal the pattern of your eating habits and enable you to spot the areas where you can make changes to help you achieve your weight-loss goal. It's a good idea to include:

It's important for you that you are honest with yourself and write everything down!

Researchers have found that most people almost always under-report what they actually eat.

Remember only you need to read it! Write it down as you eat and drink it, otherwise selective memory may kick in!

When you get some spare time, write the number of calories next to each item so you can work out your total for the day.

Printable Diet Diary

Sample Food Diary

Date &Time
Everything I've eaten and drunk today
Where & With
Feelings
Calories
Friday 0700
Tea with semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sugar. 15 kitchen alone tired
31
0730
Tea with semi-skimmed milk 16 one sugar 15, bowl of cornflakes 160 with semi-skimmed milk 48 and one sugar 15, 1 slice wholemeal toast 88 with butter 50 kitchen - standing mainly - on the go doing other stuff busy and rushed
392
0910
Coffee semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sugar 15 office at desk needed that caffeine hit
31
1130
Cappuccino102 with one sugar 15
2 Chocolate Digestive biscuits 80
office canteen with girls happy chatting
197
1225
Coffee semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sugar 15. office at desk starving - looking forward to lunch
31
1310
Chicken Salad sandwich with low-calorie mayo 275 1 Bag Beef crisps. 150 Cola drinks 150 on the go in town - shopping for dress for tomorrow rushed and irritated by queues - really thirsty and hot
575
1415
Tea with semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sugar 15. office at desk stressed
31
1530
Coffee semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sugar 15 Cake 95 office canteen with girls stressed and tired
126
1630
Tea with semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sugar 15 office at desk looking forward to a drink after work - bad day workwise
31
1750
Bottle of Beer 5% ABV 275ml 145 1 Bag Beef crisps 150 pub with workmates feel better
295
1820
Bottle of Beer 5% ABV 275ml 145 pub with workmates feel even better
145
1955
One glass white wine 125 ml 90 home watching tv with Rob shouldn't really - oh well!
90
2000
Chicken Curry with Rice 400, Poppadom 65 , Ice cream dessert 190 home watching tv with Rob rubbish day - need a treat
655
2025
Coffee semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sugar 15. home watching tv with Rob falling asleep
31
2130
Tea with semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sugar 15 home watching tv with Rob still tired
31
2225
Hot chocolate with 100ml semi-skimmed milk 48 and one sugar 15 and chocolate bar 103 home watching tv alone depressed after trying on new dress - dreading tomorrow 's party
166
Total for the Day
2858

In this example, the total calorie consumption for the day is 2858 calories. You can see from the column on the right that this level of calorie intake is too high for anyone, apart from an active/ very active male or a very active female.

In fact, this is a day's consumption for a female 23 year old office worker. As office work ranges between sedentary and average (1600 - 2000 recommended calories), our female office worker's consumption is too high.

This was a Friday, but even if we remove the after-work beer, crisps and wine (628 calories), the total is still over the limit for average and still too high for a female sedentary worker. Although cutting down her alcohol drinking would be a good start to getting in shape

How to cut down your alcohol

Writing a food diary can help you lose weight


To stand any chance of losing weight and getting in shape our office worker needs to increase her daily exercise level and decrease her daily calories. By studying her food diary you can easily spot her danger points and how to improve her diet:

Good and Bad Foods

Whether you've been good or bad - write it all down!

Keeping a food diary - how to reduce your calorie consumption

Now that you've got a week's worth of calorie information in your food diary you'll be able to easily see what needs to change!

In our example food diary, where we've changed to lower calorie options, the changes are shown in green with the previous calorie levels in red.

Time
Everything I've eaten and drunk
New Calories
Old Calories
0700
Tea with 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sweetener 0 - sugar 15
16
31
0730
Tea with 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 one sweetener 0, bowl of cornflakes 160 with semi-skimmed milk 48 and sweetener 0 , 1 slice wholemeal toast 88 with low fat spread 8 - sugar 30 - butter 50
312
392
0910
Coffee 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sweetener 0 - sugar 15
16
31
1130
Coffee 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sweetener 0, a banana 80
- sugar 15 - cappuccino 102 - two Chocolate Digestive biscuits 80
96
197
1225
Coffee 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 and sweetener 0 - sugar 15.
16
31
1310
Chicken Salad sandwich with low-calorie mayo 275   Diet cola drinks 2 Apple 45 - Cola drinks 150 - bag Beef crisps 150
322
575
1415
Tea with 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sweetener 0 - sugar 15
16
31
1530
Coffee 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sweetener 0 satsuma 20
- sugar 15 - cake 95
36
126
1630
Tea with 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 and one sweetener 0 - sugar 15
16
31
1750
Bottle of Low calorie Beer 4.3% ABV 330ml 95 1 Bag Beef crisps150
- beer 145
245
295
1820
Bottle of alcohol free Beer 0.05% ABV 330ml 63 - beer 145
63
145
1955
One glass low calorie white wine 50 - One glass white wine 125 ml 90
50
90
2000
Chicken Curry with Rice 400, Poppadom 65 , strawberries 24
- Ice cream dessert 190
489
655
2025
Coffee 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 sweetener 0 - sugar 15
16
31
2130
Tea with 30ml semi-skimmed milk 16 sweetener 0 - sugar 15
16
31
2225
Hot chocolate with 100ml semi-skimmed milk 48 sweetener 0
- sugar 15 - chocolate bar 103
48
166
-
Total for the Day
1773
2858

We've saved 1085 calories! This is simply by swapping low calorie options for the drinks and replacing sugary snacks with fruit and cutting down to one bag of crisps a day.

Of course this is just an example, your situation may be vastly different, maybe you don't drink alcohol, don't take sugar and don't eat lunch but it does show how a food diary can highlight eating issues and show you how easy it can be to reduce your calorie intake.

You can then go on to look at the changes you can make to what you eat to cut the calories down - whatever diet you choose to use a food diary is a useful aid in slimming.

The most important thing is not to cheat when filling in your diary - make sure you write down everything!

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